|John R. Porter
Associate Professor in the Department of History
at the University of Saskatchewan
Department of History
University of Saskatchewan
9 Campus Drive
CANADA S7N 5A5
The inferior status of Asinaria has become virtually an article of faith in modern scholarship. In re-examining the identity of the youthful lover of lines 127ff., this study teases out elements of the play's thematic structure, as well as its approach to plot and characterization, in an attempt to demonstrate that much has been missed in earlier discussions, particularly as regards the portrayal of the young lovers Argyrippus and Philaenium. The analyst readings to which this work has traditionally been prey have promoted an understanding of Asinaria, and of Plautine farce more generally, that is shown to be untenable. In the process, such readings have precluded an appropriate engagement with one of the most intriguing challenges posed by this work: the staging of lines 127ff. if indeed, as the text suggests, these lines are to be attributed to Diabolus.
Evaluates the possible implications of the setting of the opening of Sophocles' Antigone by examining the staging of nocturnal scenes in ancient Greek tragedy and comedy.
In an attempt to shed light on the exchange between Amphitruo and Alcumena at Plautus, Amphitruo 831-36, this paper examines a widespread comic tradition involving the faithless wife's exploitation of an equivocal oath to conceal her guilt. Ironically, Alcumena's earnest protestations of fidelity conform precisely to the tradition, recalling the brazen half-truths of the typical comic adulteress while simultaneously enhancing the impression of the human agents in this work as unwitting players in a divinely staged farce.
A partially updated reprint of my 1997 article in Echos du monde classique / Classical Views (below).
Proposes the emendation of a fragment of the Roman comic playwright Naevius, with reflections on the portrayal of pimps, procuresses, and prostitutes in Roman New Comedy, and on their relationship to their young male customers.
Argues for the comic use of the actor's stage phallus in the scene and reflects on the difficulties entailed in reconstructing the stage action of ancient comic — as opposed to tragic — texts.
Considers possible connections between the adultery narrative in Lysias' first oration (early 4th C. BC) and two episodes of Chariton's romantic novel, Chaireas and Callirhoe (1st/2nd C. AD). The various similarities detected by earlier studies are found to be grounded in traditional elements of the comic adultery tale, as well as in received attitudes toward women, marriage, and the family. More striking is Chariton's metatextual recollection of staged adultery narratives in Roman mime.
A re-examination of the protagonist of Euripides' Orestes in light of the portrayal of young men in Greek literature and art. While figures such as the youthful Heracles exhibit "heroic" behaviors similar to those expected of adult males, they are the exception rather than the rule. On the whole, young men are regarded as being naturally diffident and passive; their inhibitions and the fact that they too are the object of the adult male's sexual interest associate them more closely with women than with the world of the mature Greek male. Orestes' exaggerated helplessness and inhibition, his constant need to be prodded into action, his habitual recourse to hysteria, the extravagant expressions of impotence in which he indulges — all associate him with the more commonly assumed model of the passive ephebe.
The account of the Lydian king Gyges' ascent to the throne offered in Nicolaus of Damascus' Universal History (1st C. BC) has been traced directly to the work of the fifth-century Lydian historian Xanthus. This study examines Nicolaus' clever manipulation of narrative motifs derived from the Bellerophon myth and the first speech of the 5th/4th-century Attic orator Lysias. The use of the latter, in particular, suggests that the relationship to Xanthus' account is far from straightforward and tells against the view of Nicolaus as a mere redactor.
Considers the influence of Euripides on the fourth-century comic playwright Menander. While there is no doubt that there are numerous specific borrowings from — and allusions to — individual Euripidean plays in the Menandrian corpus, or that a number of dramatic techniques and devices found in Menander have a definitely Euripidean cast, it is possible to argue that Euripides' influence has become so pervasive by the latter half of the fourth century that it is to a great degree virtually transparent: what we are tempted to term Euripidean — the articulation of plots around anagnoriseis and mechanemata, the use of rhetorical devices by the various characters, the depiction of a world seemingly dominated by tyche but where the good are eventually rewarded, the down-to-earth tone and focus on common human experiences, the engagement with social issues — might well have been regarded by Menander and his audience as merely "tragic." Viewed from this perspective, Menander's comedies attest the ultimate triumph of Euripides' art: one can argue that they reflect a period when "tragedy," for the popular audiences that attended Menander's plays in Athens and elsewhere, was in many ways fundamentally Euripidean tragedy. Yet the vision that informs Menander's works lacks the spirit of anomie that characterizes even Euripides' "happier" plays: the careful integration of his plots and the continual impression of a divine hand that guides his characters' fates — for all of the apparent chaos on stage — associate Menander's plays more firmly with the world of Sophoclean drama (and, perhaps, Peripatetic theory) than with the disturbing vision of Sophocles' younger contemporary.
Proceedings of a conference held in Saskatoon in October of 1997. Includes thirteen articles on various aspects of the interpretation of Greek and Roman tragedy and comedy, in their original literary and socio-historical contexts as well as in modern reproductions.
An analysis of Lysias' first oration in light of the typical adultery tale. This study explores some as yet unappreciated ironic touches in Euphiletus' account and examines some of the deeper structures that inform his seemingly transparent narrative. The article then considers the historicity of the speech: while certainty is impossible, there are indications that Lysias 1 could represent a rhetorical exercise, designed both to display the logographer's skill and to entertain.
A detailed re-reading of Euripides' Orestes that challenges the emphasis on the allegedly subversive elements in the play that characterizes much recent criticism. The Orestes is found to present a curious mélange of early and late Euripidean features, resulting in a drama where the tragic potential of Orestes' predicament becomes lost amid the moral, political and situational chaos that dominates the late Euripidean stage. Throughout, emphasis is placed on reading the Orestes in light of Greek stage conventions and the poet's own practice in his other works.
Euripides' depiction of the murder of Aegisthus is intended to suggest the distinctive image of the boutupos rising on tiptoe to administer the death-blow at the Bouphonia, with Aegisthus assuming the role of the ox whose fate is sealed when it approaches the altar and touches the offerings. The rite of the Bouphonia, with its excessive concern for the justification of ritual bloodshed and its emotionally charged atmosphere, provides a suitable backdrop against which to play out Orestes' felling of Aegisthus; the recollection of this rite weighs against those readings that flatly deny the existence of disturbing features in the Euripidean account.
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